Photo by Christopher Mazeika

Photo by Christopher Mazeika

The last few days of this year’s Maryland Deathfest were filled by many different emotions expected at the end of such a celebration but the question regarding how the festival is evolving from previous festival remains. You can read the first part of our recap/analysis right here.

Day three.

After an intense night of partying at the infamous Holiday Inn Express across the street from the Edison lot, I woke up feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the schadenfreude going through me when my friends expressed the same exhaustion when we all woke up at the same time. That’s when it started to feel like an actual festival, where waking up becomes a task but the passion to catch the bands you want to see gets you off your bed.

We all had so many different bands that we each wanted to see that we decided to leave on our own, making me the first one heading to the fest. I arrived at the moment Gruesome was ending their second set as they replaced Sinister during their slot, a quick and effective solution made by the organizers. As I had seen them before, I decided to look for some food and wait for Deranged to take over the stage right after. The food this year was the same as before, which isn’t really a bad thing, but it becomes a predictable routine to decide on what to get.

Based on the very few people catching Deranged at the moment, it was a good set but nothing really to rave about and the lack of audience pushed that idea even further. It was here when I commented about the very thin attendance and wondered if it was the time of the day that made it seem like it was empty or lack of interest about the fest. Almost everyone I asked agreed that the festival’s attendance was much smaller than previous years since they started using the Edison lot, where the crowd can be better appreciated.

Historically speaking, Maryland Deathfest hasn’t entirely sold out in the past few years and that always made me think about the effect of the festival in future installments. They usually sell out on specific days and venues or some multi-day packages but there are generally tickets available for certain venues and days even during the fest, and the lack of people posed the question as to what the organizers’ next move is

The cost involved in the development of this massive bash is high and we’ve known that, considering the price per ticket has increased year after year. Combining that with the lack of unique acts to draw larger crowds than a small niche of fans, it’s understandable people wouldn’t want to make the effort to attend, despite being one of the most important fests in extreme metal. The expansion of Deathfest with different editions like California and Netherlands Deathfest, it’s obvious that MDF isn’t going to withhold the financial stability of the organization.

The next highlight for me was Tulus, a band comprised by 3/4 of Khold. Just like their previous set with their alter ego, Tulus was mighty in every way, bringing back the black metal essence to the Edison lot one more time. The throwback to the early days of black metal kicked in among many of those who weren’t distracted by participating in the circle pit and it was the band the really set the path for the great bands coming next.

tulus mdf 2016

Hirax, Hail of Bullets and Impaled Nazarene followed up back to back keeping the atmosphere of enjoyment and thrill set by Tulus earlier and they were nothing but outstanding. It was at this point that I needed a break from the sun and standing around and took some time to head back to my hotel, which was only a few blocks away from Edison. The location of the fest makes it very convenient for its attendees to find hotels within walking distance or a quick cab drive to avoid the uphills swarming the city.

The hotels we usually book are very aware of the festival happening and don’t question the large gathering of black t-shirts happening at their lobbies. They’re very happy to host us, even when it is known that metal heads like to party hard at their rooms, which was the case at almost every hotel you walked into. A good sign of the city embracing the hellish masses taking over every Memorial Day weekend.

Once I recovered some energy to continue with the fest, I head out to catch the last few bands on my list that day. Grave Miasma, Dragged into Sunlight and Craft play the exact style of extreme metal I’m interested in and were a favorite among many there. The polarizing comments from these last three bands really showed why musical taste is so unique and every one should only focus on their own without letting others’ opinion affect their perspective.

Grave Miasma performed an excellent, dark and capturing death metal set that those following the band for years appreciated but some who weren’t too familiar with them couldn’t get into. Dragged into Sunlight experienced the same with eager fans purchasing literally hundreds of dollars in merch but it also made some confused by their stage performance where they play with their backs turned to the crowd. Craft was the choice of preference by many black metal followers but others expressed their disappointment about their live set even while embracing their studio work.

grave miasma mdf 2016

Photo by Bob Rafie

This goes back to the diverse attendance previously mentioned and reinforces why Maryland Deathfest is known for their outstanding roster every year. If the festival was mainly focused on, let’s say, actual death metal, the slim attendance that happened this year would be reduced to a club-size crowd. After so many years in the scene, the festival has created a devoted horde of metal heads who will attend the festival, no matter what they do or book. The problem with that is that relying on those who always attend won’t allow any progress as an organization, unless you become a mainstream festival like Wacken Open Air which sells out before the lineup is announced.

After Craft’s underwhelming set, it was time to repeat an important part of the experience at the festival and that’s the post-celebrations. I’ve mentioned the Holiday Inn Express hotel quite a few times because that’s where many of my friends living on the other side of the country party and get more personal time with each other.

It’s not very hard to find a room or hotel to spend your time after the curtains closed down. All you need is an invitation from someone friendly to party at their or friends’ hotel or simply ask a large group of people “where’s the party now?” In my case, I bounced back and forth between the Holiday Inn and wandering off with a friend unfamiliar with the other group to another party… just to head back with them to where my other friends were.

After years attending the fest, it becomes interesting and satisfactory to see many of my buddies from all over the world talking to each other after one of these encounters. It creates a closer and much familiar circle the next time you see them and there’s is no need to step out of a conversation to engage in another one when you can have them all with you at the same time.